Yesterday, David Oldfield, 2UE radio presenter (formerly One Nation NSW representative) alluded to the Australian Aborigines as being a stone age people and not having any organisation like Australia when comparing their colonisation by the British to the colonisation by the Israelis of Palestine.
He said that Aborigines have no claim to Australia because they were not an organised state or people and they were in effect uncivilised and needed to be colonised and that 200 years has passed and so that is now history.
It is true that Australia is quite organised and it has its own institutions and apparati for enacting laws and so forth. But to imply that the Aboriginal society was not organised is absolutely offensive to the 3 million Aboriginal people who lived on this continent prior to British invasion and the half a million Aborigines who live in Australia today. I personally think that they were much more organised than present day Australia. While we are a modern society that is obvious with big roads and big sky-scrapers and fancy looking Opera Houses and Bridges, we are not necessarily better off than the Aborigines. We have a crime rate that is getting out of control, you cant leave your car unlocked or leave the house without bolting it down, alarming it and insuring against theft, there are many people who are homeless and then there is the massive problem of alcoholism and drug addiction. I am sure that the Aborigines did not have to worry much about these problems. In fact they had a very sophisticated system of laws and organisation.
One of the most unique system of maintaining borders and manourvering throughout the land was using Song Lines. These were incredibly successful and also maintained harmony between neighbouring countries. The laws were just and maintained traditional customs which were thousands of years old. They had respect for each other, respect for elders and respect for the environment.
The Aboriginal people did not believe in the notion of "owning" the land, so when the brutish British arrived in their red coats and white wigs, looking like nancy boys, waving the Union Jack about like some drug-induced teenager at a rave, expecting that the locals would act like savages and resist, the Aborigines actually welcomed them in the spirit of friendship and allowed them to share the land with them. The greedy foreigners didn't want to share anything. They wanted to just keep taking. After taking the lush coastal areas along the harbour, their hungry eyes were cast on the rich alluvial plains along the now called Parramatta River and then they commissioned Wentworth, Blaxland and Lawson to carve a land route over the Blue Mountains and open up the situation for wholesale slaughter of the Aborigines. They did resist and at times effectively (Pemulwuy was the best known freedom fighter of the time, similar to Yasser Arafat) but the power of the British guns was too much against the spears of the locals.
The point is that these attitudes are pervasive amongst Australians today. We still look down upon the Aborigines as savages and still have the terra nullius mentality. They were decent people living in advanced society for the time and context. They didn't have needles and threads to make nice tights and red overcoats and fancy black caps, but they had high morals and an advanced belief system. We need to acknowledge that. To just apologise for the wrongs of the past and then dismiss them as an uncivilised people is not enough.
I hope that we can reassess our attitudes towards Aborigines and give their ancestors the respect that they deserve. If the British had come here in 1788 and exchanged knowledge and science and then left, instead of colonising the land and killing off the people, we would have had a very different situation. Today, Australia could have been a modern society, developed by Aborigines, it would have been interesting experiment to say the least. And of course it goes without saying it wouldnt be called Australia...